By Ken Ritter

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Nevada is adding residents at a pace that should push the statewide population over 3 million by next year, the state’s top population-counter said Tuesday.

The Silver State today has more than 2.9 million residents, with almost 75 percent living in Clark County and the Las Vegas area, Nevada State Demographer Jeff Hardcastle said.

That growth is less the result of new residents moving in than families staying and having children, he added.

Nevada led the nation in growth for several years before the Great Recession began in late 2007, and data from the U.S. Census shows the state has now bounced back to become the second-fastest growing in 2016, behind only Utah, Hardcastle said.

Statewide, the Nevada population increased by almost 56,000 in 2016, nearly 2 percent compared with 2015. More than 47,800, or nearly 86 percent of the increase, were in Las Vegas and Clark County.

Demographer projections are produced by averaging housing unit estimates, employment data, school enrollment and labor force records. The numbers provide a projection of population figures up to five years into the future. They can differ from U.S. Census population surveys taken every 10 years.

Statewide, population growth at 1.9 percent looks to be lower than job growth at 2.7 percent for September 2015 to September 2016.

Unlike in previous years, when more people moved into than out of Nevada, Hardcastle said the state population is growing today due to what he called “natural increase,” of family growth.

“Since 2012, we’ve been averaging about 1.5 percent to 2 percent growth,” Hardcastle said. “That tells us we’re at a healthy growth rate, and that we have people growing up here and moving into adulthood becoming invested in the community.”

Hardscastle noted that U.S. Census American Communities Survey data found that as of 2015, more than 19 percent of the Nevada population was foreign-born, and more than half of that group — almost 300,000 — weren’t U.S. citizens.

That compares with 13.5 percent nationwide born outside the U.S., including almost 67 percent who aren’t citizens.